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Is the internet going down down under?

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The Register spoke with Greens communications spokesperson and one of the leading parliamentary opponents of this scheme, Senator Scott Ludlam. To begin with, he expressed surprise that the government had got itself caught up in what was turning out to have such negative voter appeal. He said: "This has come out of nowhere. I don’t think they realised just how unpopular this proposal would be. Nor have they understood the technical implications of what they are proposing."

Asked whether he believed that the government would get its plans through, he was slightly more reticent. "If the Liberals, the Greens and the two independent members of the Senate oppose this proposal then it will fail. It is likely that the Greens will oppose – although to be honest, we need to understand better what the government is actually proposing.

"Their plans are fluid at present. We’re not altogether sure whether they’re aiming at child porn or casting the net wider.

"There already exist measures that blacklist sites that host specifically illegal content and a legal basis for doing this: but the proposals coming out of government sound like they are shifting the goalpost from blocking what is specifically illegal to what is considered to be ‘inappropriate’.

"As far as we can tell, people just don’t see the need for such an expansion of censorship."

Meanwhile, as opposition grows, the debate has turned dirty, with Stephen Conroy’s Office apparently leaning on the Internet Industry Association (IIA) to put pressure on Mark Newton.

So what are the implications for the UK? The $64,000 question is whether the UK either can or will go down the filtering route.

Discussions with the Home Office reveal a desire on the part of the Home Secretary to do this for sites that incite terror – though there are no details yet. However, the Internet Watch Foundation claims one reason that it is not interested in wholescale filtering is that this is just not technically feasible.

Martin Salter, MP, architect of recent laws on "extreme porn" also claims that the government needed to criminalise individuals because blocking is not possible. However, despite repeated requests he has failed to explain these remarks.

In the end, what happens in Australia will affect us all. If their filtering scheme falls flat on its face, expect to hear little more of it. If it is implemented and works in however half-arsed a fashion, look forward to proposals to filter the UK internet in a couple of years time. ®

Bootnote

Any similarity between Australia's clean-cut air-brushed Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, and the UK's clean-cut, air-brushed etc, Andy Burnham are pure co-incidence.

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